Welsh language in danger unless more parents pass it on to their children, linguists warn
The Welsh language is in danger of not surviving unless more parents pass it on to their children, linguists have claimed.
It is among 12 European languages that researchers at Busuu say are at risk of extinction in a bid to encourage the public to keep them alive. Welsh is considered ‘vulnerable’ while Irish is ‘definitely endangered’ and Manx and Cornish ‘critically endangered’.
Rather than being decided by the number of speakers worldwide, the labels are instead determined by the ‘intergenerational transmission’ of a language – that is, to what extent older generations pass on the language to younger generations.
Other languages on the list include West Flemish, Swiss German and Belarusian, the team behind language-learning app Busuu said.
Lead Language Expert at Busuu Federico Espinosa said: “Many might be shocked to discover that the more ‘famous’ regional dialects are dying, but sadly it’s unsurprising.
“People no longer choose to live their lives in the same regions as their families – globalisation means people move around and they don’t pass on their regional dialect.
“It’s great to see that some are committed to preserving their native tongue. The Welsh government have set themselves ambitious targets to double the number of native speakers by 2050. This is a really positive step forward.”
Out of the approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists estimate that at least 43% are endangered or vulnerable to some extent, and will likely disappear in this century.
Swiss German is the most at-risk European language on the list, and is classed as ‘Severely Endangered’. Although it’s estimated that around five million people speak the language in Switzerland, it is mostly by grandparents and older generations.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) uses a ranking system with six levels to determine how at-risk each language is around the world.
This system labels each language as either ‘Safe’, ‘Vulnerable’, ‘Definitely Endangered’, ‘Severely Endangered’, ‘Critically Endangered’ and ‘Extinct’.